Does new TV show stereotype Latinas?

Jeff Tyler Jun 21, 2013

Does new TV show stereotype Latinas?

Jeff Tyler Jun 21, 2013

On Sunday, the new TV show “Devious Maids” debuts. It’s meant to attract women who were fans of “Desperate Housewives.” In fact, the new show is executive produced by Marc Cherry, the creator of “Desperate Housewives,” and the show’s star, Eva Longoria.

The protagonists in “Devious Maids” are all Latina. So, you might think that would be good a marketing hook.

“Devious Maids” is already available online. Viewers can watch as a rich white woman dresses down her servant with lines like this: “If you don’t stop screwing my husband, I’m going to have you deported. Comprende?”

The episode is also available in Spanish.

Rob Sharenow is general manager of Lifetime Network, which will air “Devious Maids.”

“We think there’s a big opportunity to tap into the Hispanic market. Currently, there is literally no show on television, outside of Spanish-language television, that features Latino stars,” says Sharenow.

But some Latina bloggers have taken issue with the show. One describes it as “kinda like a crappy ‘Desperate Housewives’ Latina redux.” Others were harsher. Some have accused “Devious Maids” of stereotyping Latinas.

But Sharenow says a lot of the criticism has come from people who haven’t seen the show.

“Anyone who sees the show knows immediately that the maids are the heroines, and they have all the virtue,” says Sharenow. “It is a very inspirational portrait of the maids, and sort of a relatively villainous portrait of everyone else.”

Perhaps the show is being taken too seriously. It is, after all, a soap opera. Or, telenovela, in Spanish. It’s meant to be fun and sexy. And for Lifetime, “Devious Maids” is meant to attract younger viewers.

“We’re definitely not your grandmother’s Lifetime. We’ve already sort of lowered our median age significantly, year on year,” says Sharenow.

One group you might expect to take exception with the show is real-life maids. But the stereotypes don’t bother Socorro Castellanos. She’s been a domestic worker for 16 years. Castellanos does note that real maids generally don’t get to dress up at work.

“We have to dress very modestly because we work with infants and also with elderly people,” says Castellanos.

On the show, one maid gets involved in a murder mystery. In real life, the mystery is how maids will get paid for all the time they work. Leili Davari is a community organizer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

“So many of our domestic workers are working more than 40 hours a week, and only getting paid for those 40 hours. So, no overtime. Another thing, there are no personal sick days,” says Davari.

A bill that would help protect domestic servants has passed the California assembly, and it’s now in the state senate. Advocates for the bill would like “Devious Maids” executive producer, Eva Longoria, to lobby for the legislation.

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